Health Information Technology: a Vital Skill for Today’s Healthcare Workers
In today’s world, most healthcare workers should have computer and health information technology skills.
What is health information technology? Health information technology (HIT) includes electronic systems and tools that enable secure documentation, storage and sharing of health information among users. Electronic health records, electronic billing and coding systems, patient portals, and electronic provider decision-making applications are key HIT elements. We expect HIT to improve the quality of care, decrease errors, increase efficiency across healthcare, decrease paperwork, improve communication, and streamline care delivery.
In many hospitals, health centers, radiology centers, small doctors’ offices, and other healthcare settings, the healthcare staff members are using computers and other HIT systems in their daily work. Here’s how:
- Healthcare team members review electronic patient charts in preparation for visits, look at electronic reports on their patients in order to identify patients who need additional services or care coördination, and make electronic notes about plans for additional testing or visits with other healthcare providers.
- When a patient arrives, the receptionist or greeter uses the computer to confirm an appointment, insert updated information, and make follow-up appointments.
- The medical assistants, nurses, doctors, and other clinical staff members use electronic health records to document their interaction with the patients.
- Lab results are transmitted from the laboratory to the clinical staff, in many cases, through electronic systems.
- Documenting the patient’s diagnosis, and billing for visits and services are completed on electronic systems.Even telephone messages or secured email messages are documented in electronic form in many settings.
Healthcare workers will need to learn not only basic computer skills, but also to learn how to interact with electronic systems at every level of a healthcare delivery system.
So, how do you get the skills that we need to be successful in those systems? The answer is complicated.
There is not ONE type of electronic health record and not every healthcare organization supports the same type of patient portals (if they have one), computer programs, or technology. However, you can begin by learning general computer skills. Learn how to use computer programs, like Microsoft Office, and how to navigate the internet. (This past blog entry gives some ideas on where to brush up on computer skills.) In addition,earn how to type efficiently. When you work in a healthcare organization that uses electronic systems, you’ll be typing in patient information as part of your work. Once you’re hired, the healthcare organization will help provide you with orientation to its particular system and workflows, but a strong background in computer skills will advance your understanding and use of each employer’s unique health information technology system.
Jenny Tsang-Quinn M.D. is the Executive Director for the New York Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (NYACH). At NYACH, Jenny is overseeing a project that engages healthcare employers in the analysis of current and future labor force needs and partners with workforce training organizations to meet those needs.
On the 2nd Friday of each month, Jenny will share advice and insight on jobs in the healthcare industry. If you have a question or comment for Jenny, drop her a note below. And, don’t forget to share this with your friends on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.